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JumpStart Foundation / News  / Bright sparks: from apprentice welder to maths teacher – UPDATED!
Bright sparks: from apprentice welder to maths teacher - UPDATED!

Bright sparks: from apprentice welder to maths teacher – UPDATED!

Mamiki and friends register for their studies. Mamiki sets these bright sparks alight with NumberSense.


JumpStart maths tutor, Mamollo Kok, is on an interesting career path. She went from being a matriculant with social work ambitions, to a welding apprenticeship, to ensuring that bright sparks fly in the classrooms where she supports maths education.

What’s in a name?

Mamollo is known to her friends as Mamiki. To two-year-old Zizipho she is Mama. To the 700 foundation phase learners at Nelson Mandela Primary School in Sasolburg where she is a JumpStart tutor, helping out in the maths lessons, she is simply “Maths Teacher”. Soon, however, Mamiki will be a fully qualified Grade R teacher thanks to a StudyAssist Bursary from SASOL. In Southern Sotho “mamollo” means “mother of fire”. It’s a fitting name for a person who protects the embers, blowing gently on them and waiting for the spark of learning to emerge as a flame. Certainly, the prospects are improving for the children who pass through her care. “Mother of fire” also speaks to Mamiki’s own feisty passion for her own education.

Large classes, too little time

In Grade 1, 2 and 3, the teacher-student ratios are 1 to 40, 45, and 48 respectively, so it’s easy for the little ones to fall through the cracks. Mamiki is determined to make sure each child counts, literally and metaphorically.

In the small Free State town of Ventersburg, Mamiki’s parents believed that life is most meaningful when you help other people. She wanted to study social work, but despite her best efforts, a university exemption was beyond reach. Mamiki channeled her disappointment into volunteering. She assisted a social worker in caring for orphans, visiting sick people at home, and distributing food parcels to the needy.

Four years later she still had no job

“So I moved to Sasolburg and studied welding,” says the softly spoken but pragmatic young woman. Once again, frustration and unemployment came her way. Mamiki knew all about metalworking techniques and tools; she could read welding symbols and safety drills, but the time was wrong and no sparks flew.

Despite her desperate situation, she refused to give up. Like youth careers do, hers took an unusual turn. When a friend nudged Mamiki to apply for the JumpStart internship, she grabbed the chance. She hid her nerves, showed up for an interview with Stephen and Betty, and said her prayers. “Imagine my joy when I got this position,” says Mamiki, remembering the encounter, five years ago.

Losing the fear of failure at maths

Mrs Tsotetsi, the Deputy Principal, has noticed Mamiki’s heartfelt approach to motivating every learner she works with. “She is a kind gentle person, who helps learners realise their full potential. The boys and girls open up to her, losing their fear of maths and their embarrassment at failure. She is a great asset to the school, with a natural flair for connecting with the youngest learners. She was an obvious candidate for a JumpStart StudyAssist Bursary.”

This week Mamiki registered for her final year of a Diploma in Gr R Teaching at Lyceum College. Mamiki enjoys the coursework, focused on early childhood education. “This bursary is a great opportunity, helping me reach my goals to help others. As a breadwinner, the bursary fosters my career, and impacts on my family. Neither of my parents have work, so I can support them and care for my daughter too.”

No lost causes

“No child in Mamiki’s care is a hopeless case,” says Mrs Tsotseti, who mentors the maths tutor. Mamiki said, “She teaches me a lot about teaching, and makes me feel very special.” With the JumpStart bursary, Mamiki’s dream is burning brightly.

Partner with JumpStart

Mamiki’s studies were covered by a SASOL bursary, but there are many more youngsters who are eager to complete their education and would eagerly make a difference to the future of education in the country. Does your organisation need to meet its BBEEE scorecard for skills development? Sponsor a StudyAssist bursary or a learnership for Free State youth to score points across the Skills Development scorecard. Email Betty Oliphant for more information.

UPDATE – 11 MAY 2021

Mamiki Kok is the new Grade R teacher at Phirihadi Primary School

Mamiki Kok has completed her diploma and, having graduated, was thrilled to secure a permanent post as a Grade R teacher at Phirihadi Primary School, in Heilbron. When the principal of Malakabeng Primary School transferred to Phirihadi, he discovered a class  that had not had a teacher since February. He was keen to engage Mamiki as soon as she  qualified.

It was a very tender moment and she found herself crying tears of sorrow and joy when she heard the good news and was unable to share it with her mother, who recently lost her life in a tragic car accident. “It was my mother’s wish to see me graduate and become a teacher. She was always supportive and believed in me!”

JumpStart helped Mamiki with financial support to fund her studies. She listed all the ways she had benefited from being on the programme: “We also learned skills how to teach children, including how to deal with slow learners, how to show them the correct pencil grip, as well as emotional support from all my colleagues during the difficult times. People brought me food and money to the hospital while my daughter recovered. Jabu Thomo always encourage me to follow my dream. My long term goal is to become a Head of Department for Foundation Phase. Thank you, JumpStart, for everything!”


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